Saturday, August 21 2004
DEVASTATING AD:
The second swift boat ad is devastating to the Kerry campaign and Kerry's opponents are very smart to move the attack from what Kerry did or didn't do in Vietnam, but to his involvement in the radical antiwar movement when he returned home.

Like I said in my post yesterday, it is Kerry's antiwar actions upon returning from Vietnam where the Democrats are supremely vulnerable, and this ad scores a direct hit.

TOM OLIPHANT IN DENIAL: The Left is enraged that it no longer has total control over what is, or is not, covered in the mainstream media. On the Newshour with Jim Lehrer the Boston Globe's Tom Oliphant tried to snottily delegitimize the entire Kerry/Swift Boat story with this observation:

The credibility problem, which is what keeps this thing in the tabloids primarily and on cable television where there are different standards.

What's hilarious about this statement, is Oliphant is on PBS with Jim Lehrer (about as 180 degrees from tabloid as you can get) when he tries to dismiss this as a story fit only for right-wing hack radio and super market tabloids.

Later on in the interview while trying to fend off the charges from Unfit to Command's John O'Neill, he tries again to suggest that the story is relegated only to the tabloids.

But the standard of clear and convincing evidence-- and it's easy when you leave out the exculpatory stuff-- is what keeps this story in the tabloids because it does not meet basic standards.

Lehrer quickly steps in and brings Oliphant back to reality:

But of course it's no longer in the tabloids because Sen. Kerry brought it up himself. That's why we're talking about it tonight.

And of course you would have to be on Mars to be a political report and think that this story is relegated to the tabloids. Oliphant and his friends in the Kerry campaign may wish this story were relegated only to the supermarket tabloids. However, unfortunately for the Democrats the media playing field is much more difficult to control with the Internet, FOX News and a booming talk radio industry. Twenty years ago this story probably could have been completely buried by the mainstream press and left to the tabloids.

The irony here is even though there was a powerful case that this was a story that deserved, at least, as much coverage as the Bush National Guard ruckus, had the Kerry campaign just toughed it out one more week, he might have been able to skate by without the big-line media picking it up in any real way.

Kerry's attack on Thursday however, makes that a moot point, and the Kerry campaign will have to foster a backlash against President Bush and Republicans if they hope to have any chance of neutralizing this issue.

OLIPHANT'S HIGH JOURNALISTIC STANDARDS: Glenn Reynolds reminds us:

Oliphant's high journalistic standards probably should have led him to disclose that his daughter works for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. Hmm. Maybe -- though in the world of journalism, they think such connections are assumed, and thus aren't regarded as requiring disclosure.

J. McIntyre 2:53 pm Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Friday, August 20 2004
KERRY CAMPAIGN'S FIRST SERIOUS MISTAKE:
Yesterday afternoon I received a form email from John Kerry campaign manager, Mary Beth Cahill. It began:

Today marks the end of the dishonest and disgusting smear campaign against John Kerry and his crewmates from Vietnam. This morning on the front page of the Washington Post, one of the central figures in the effort to distort John Kerry's military service was completely discredited.

The Kerry campaign must have thought that yesterday's front page Washington Post story attempting to discredit one of Kerry's critics, coupled with Kerry's public engagement of the issue in his speech to a Boston firefighters union was going to be enough to put the story to rest. But by forcefully attacking the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as ''a front for the Bush campaign" that is doing the President's ''dirty work," Kerry has forced the mainstream press to finally confront this issue which up until yesterday they had been, more or less, ignoring.

Admittedly, the Internet best seller Unfit for Command and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth had in many ways cornered the Kerry campaign and not left them with many attractive options. On one hand they could continue to ignore the issue, and hope the press refused to cover it in any meaningful way, and get through next week where the impending GOP convention would then act to change the subject. Or they could confront the issue and try to put the story to rest, which of course opens up the possibility of drawing more attention to a story they don't want covered in the first place.

Unless the Kerry campaign thinks this issue is playing well for them, or they think they can turn the issue around and create a backlash against President Bush, I don't understand yesterday's tactics. Because of Kerry's counterattack yesterday, they have provided a further opening for Kerry's opponents on multiple fronts. First as much as the liberal media wants the anti-Kerry veterans to be a bunch of ragtag, right -wing nuts, they don't necessarily come across that way. The more exposure and coverage they get, the more it will make it increasingly harder to discredit them. Mickey Kaus writes (link here):

Respectable big-time journalist friends who met with the anti-Kerry vets recently found them a lot more credible than expected.

John O'Neill graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was first in his law school class at the University of Texas. He's very well spoken and makes a powerful case against Senator Kerry's Vietnam record. Another vet, Larry Thurlow, did more than hold his own on MSNBC's Hardball against a very combative and hostile Chris Mathews.

What is really problematic for the Kerry campaign is this will eventually segue into Kerry's antiwar conduct when he came home from Vietnam. And it is his post-Vietnam antiwar record, more than anything, that has the potential to do real damage to his candidacy.

Kerry's four-month stint in Vietnam is not only meant to provide foreign policy and national security cover for his dovish record in the US Senate, but it is also meant to provide cover for his antiwar crusade when he returned from Vietnam.

Kerry effectively used his Vietnam record to assist in getting the Democratic nomination, and he wisely played up his service at the Democratic convention a month ago. But from the Democrats' perspective, that is where they wanted and needed the story to end. That probably won't happen now that Kerry has publicly attacked the swift boat vets as a bunch of liars and a front for the Bush campaign.

Maybe the Kerry camp is counting on its friends in the press to spin their side (as the NY Times does on the front page this morning) in a way that limits the damage or even precipitates a backlash against President Bush. Nevertheless, by engaging on the issue they've provided a big opening for more coverage of Kerry's antiwar past and thus have given up, at least to some degree, control over the narrative of the central rationale for their candidate's bid for the White House. The risk-reward analysis doesn't seem to justify their decision. J. McIntyre 10:43 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Thursday, August 19 2004
WHAT BOB HERBERT DIDN'T TELL YOU:
Earlier this week Bob Herbert caused quite a stir by alleging that officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) were using a phony vote fraud investigation to intimidate elderly African-American voters and try to suppress black turnout at the polls in Florida this November. "The vile smell of voter suppression is all over this so-called investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement," Herbert fumed.

Because this is such a serious and inflammatory charge - and knowing a bit about how Herbert operates - I spent some time yesterday checking out the story. As you might expect, it turns out Herbert omitted several key details (and twisted a few others) that severely undermine his claim that the vote fraud investigation in Florida is illegitimate and designed to intimidate African-Americans.

First let's start with Herbert's characterization of the investigation:

The officers, from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which reports to Gov. Jeb Bush, say they are investigating allegations of voter fraud that came up during the Orlando mayoral election in March.

Officials refused to discuss details of the investigation, other than to say that absentee ballots are involved. They said they had no idea when the investigation might end, and acknowledged that it may continue right through the presidential election.

Phrased this way, the investigation does indeed sound fishy. It's also true that when you call the FDLE they refuse to discuss the details of the case - but only because there is an ongoing criminal investigation. This is standard operating procedure anywhere in the country.

But even armed with the sparse information from Herbert's column, after spending an hour or so using Google and Lexis/Nexis you can discover the specifics of the fraud investigation taking place. Here they are:

On March 9, 2004 Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer won reelection with 12,422 votes out of the 24,375 ballots cast. However, to avoid a runoff Dyer needed to break the 50%, which he did in the end by only 234 votes, and with the help of a good number of absentee ballots.

As it turns out, 264 of those absentee ballots were witnessed by Ezzie Thomas, President of the Orlando League of Voters. This is, of course, the same Ezzie Thomas that Bob Herbert describes in his column by saying, "with his demonstrated ability to deliver the black vote in Orlando, Mr. Thomas is a tempting target for supporters of George W. Bush in a state in which the black vote may well spell the difference between victory and defeat."

Herbert fails to mention that, as reported in the Orlando Sentinel on July 25, 2004, Mr. Thomas was paid $10,000 by Mayor Dyer to collect absentee ballots for the election and that his handling of absentee ballots has been under scrutiny in the past (including as recently as 2002) though charges have never been filed.

This time, they were. Right after the election in March, second place finisher Ken Mulvaney filed a civil suit to try and get the absentee ballots witnessed by Thomas thrown out and get himself into a runoff with Dyer. Mulvaney interviewed a number of absentee ballot voters and eventually produced 42 signed affidavits alleging mishandling of ballots.

On April 8 a circuit judge in Orlando decided there was enough evidence to proceed with the suit. Additionally, Mulvaney's complaint sparked the FDLE criminal investigation which Herbert decries as a concerted effort to suppress the black vote.

Now that we have some perspective, let's go back and look again at the way Herbert characterizes the investigation in his column:

I asked Mr. Morales in a telephone conversation to tell me what criminal activity had taken place.

"I can't talk about that," he said.

I asked if all the people interrogated were black.

"Well, mainly it was a black neighborhood we were looking at - yes,'' he said.

He also said, "Most of them were elderly."

When I asked why, he said, "That's just the people we selected out of a random sample to interview."

Back in the bad old days, some decades ago, when Southern whites used every imaginable form of chicanery to prevent blacks from voting, blacks often fought back by creating voters leagues, which were organizations that helped to register, educate and encourage black voters. It became a tradition that continues in many places, including Florida, today.

The reason many of the people interviewed were elderly African-Americans is because they were selected at random from the pool of 264 absentee ballots in question witnessed by Ezzie Thomas, which he collected from elderly African-Americans. Does this sound like racism to you?

But even that is grossly misleading. The truth is that the FDLE investigation quickly widened to probe allegations that the Orlando firefighters union - a predominantly white organization - broke the law by having its members paid to perform campaign related activities for Dyer while on duty.

Just a little over two weeks ago, on Friday, August 6, the Orlando Sentinel editorial page - not exactly a racist organization - wrote that the probe was justified (quote via Lexis):

charges that there may have been election fraud with some absentee ballots and improper payments to some union firefighters supporting Mayor Buddy Dyer are serious business. The state investigation into those allegations is warranted, even though some people questioned during the probe felt intimidated by state agents.

   Certainly the investigators need to show sensitivity. Some of those questioned were elderly blacks who may have encountered intimidation decades ago when registering to vote. Conducting the interviews in a setting that is comfortable, such as their church, can put those seniors at ease. The goal isn't to scare people, but to get the truth.

   The state investigation is not unfairly targeting blacks. Part of the probe is focused on the activity of the mostly white fire union that supported Mr. Dyer's re-election bid. A grand jury that met this week considered allegations that some improper payments may have gone to union members.

Even though Mulvaney may not win the case in the end - nor would he be expected to win a runoff against Dyer should his lawsuit prevail - the point is clear: this is a legitimate investigation that is not targeting African-Americans. And it is most certainly not an orchestrated effort by Jeb Bush or Florida law enforcement officers to suppress the black vote in November on behalf of the President.

But that's not what Bob Herbert wants America to believe. After looking at the details of this investigation and comparing it to the truly dishonest and deceitful representation Herbert presented in his column the other day, it's clear that Herbert (along with Krugman, see below) is part of an orchestrated, preemptive effort to deligitimize a Bush victory in Florida should it happen this November.

Why am I so convinced of this? Because the investigation of Ezzie Thomas has been going on for months. As you can see from the very end of this detailed article, up until at least the end of May (and possibly later, I don't know), Ezzie Thomas's lawyer was a guy named Dean Mosley.

Do you think it's just coincidence that Thomas's lawyer is now Joseph Egan, the Orlando-based lawyer who was part of Al Gore's legal team in 2000 and who is now a $1,000 contributor to John Kerry's campaign for president?

And is it also coincidence that the day after Herbert's column came out Terry McAuliffe used the misleading accusations in it to sow even more doubts about the legitimacy of the results in November?

"Gov. Bush should be as troubled as anyone that the Florida state police at 'random' has chosen to enter the homes of elderly African-American voters in Orlando," McAuliffe said Tuesday. "This appears anything but random and it is now incumbent upon Gov. Bush to demonstrate that Florida is capable of holding an election that is fair and above reproach." (emphasis added)

This is truly disgraceful. Herbert, McAuliffe, and the rest of the Democrats - the supposed "champions" of the African-American community - are manipulating the fears of black voters and playing on racial distrust and division to make sure that anything approaching a close race in Florida is contestable, and that any Bush victory is illegitimate. It is, I'm afraid, one of the lowest things I've ever seen. - T. Bevan 11:12 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Tuesday, August 17 2004
WILL THE ELECTION BE STOLEN IN FLORIDA?:
Paul Krugman suggests this morning that "there is a substantial chance that the result of the 2004 presidential election will be suspect."

You might be inclined to dismiss his column as another example that the Ivy League econ prof is off his meds. Not true. Krugman is quite cannily (and preemptively) arguing that a Bush victory in Florida will be illegitimate:

When I say that the result will be suspect, I don't mean that the election will, in fact, have been stolen. (We may never know.) I mean that there will be sufficient uncertainty about the honesty of the vote count that much of the world and many Americans will have serious doubts.

How might the election result be suspect? Well, to take only one of several possibilities, suppose that Florida - where recent polls give John Kerry the lead - once again swings the election to George Bush.

Much of Florida's vote will be counted by electronic voting machines with no paper trails. Independent computer scientists who have examined some of these machines' programming code are appalled at the security flaws. So there will be reasonable doubts about whether Florida's votes were properly counted, and no paper ballots to recount. The public will have to take the result on faith. (emphasis added)

Krugman goes on to insinuate there is a concerted effort by Governor Jeb Bush to suppress the black vote and then declares, "given this pattern, there will be skepticism if Florida's paperless voting machines give President Bush an upset, uncheckable victory."

So Krugman is concluding, based on a couple of polls in Florida taken right after the Democratic National Convention showing Kerry ahead, that if Bush wins Florida in November it will be considered an "upset"- and an "uncheckable" one at that. This is a deeply disingenuous and dishonest statement.

Let's flesh out some facts. Broward and Miami-Dade counties are now working with touch-screen voting machines by Election Systems & Software (ES&S). Palm Beach County decided to purchase touch-screen machines from Sequoia Voting Systems.

Just last week 418 touch-screen machines in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties were tested before an audience of national television crews and various state officials. The results: all machines counted with 100% accuracy.

This isn't to say there haven't been mistakes, which are naturally viewed with a heightened sensitivity in Florida. But those mistakes, including a recent error on printed ballots, a mix up in a County Commissioner race, and even some problems in 2002, were due almost entirely to human error.

But Krugman doesn't mention human error. Nor does he mention the fact that, as in 2000, a vast majority of the local officials supervising the election process in Florida are Democrats.

Instead Krugman implies there will be far more nefarious factors at work - including the rather paranoid suggestions that hackers and/or partisans loyal to President Bush could program touch-screen voting machines to perform perfectly during public testing but then somehow be reprogrammed to skew in favor of Bush on election day.

As Krugman points out, Democratic paranoia in Florida is driven mainly by the fact that the new touch-screen voting machines provide no "paper trail." But according to this press release from Sequoia, each of their machines "already allows the printing of ballots for recount and audit purposes."

(LATE UPDATE: In a related article out today, Dr. Michael I. Shamos of the Institute for Software Research at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh told a Virginia legislative committee that electronic voting machines have been used for 25 years without a "single verified incident of tampering.")

Nevertheless, earlier this year Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler filed suit to try and force election officials to retrofit all touch screen voting machines with printers. Last week Democratic State Senator Ron Klein urged Governor Bush force the 15 counties equipped with touch-screen voting machines to provide voters with the option of casting paper absentee ballots.

Theresa LePore - the now famous Democrat Election Supervisor from Palm Beach County - called Klein's proposal, "the most absurd thing I've heard yet."

Here's the rest of the exchange between LePore and Klein, which I can't emphasize enough comes from a Democrat who is on the ground and responsible for supervising the election process:

"We've got four optical scanner machines and 700 precincts," a clearly exasperated Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore said. "How are we going to do it?"

"It's not such a huge list for the supervisors to expand this," Klein said in Tallahassee on Thursday morning. "We're just trying to make it easier for voters."

But LePore, reached in West Palm Beach, said what Klein was asking was a big deal. In addition to having to buy at least 696 more optical-scan machines, Palm Beach County would have to print enough paper ballots for the county's 710,000 voters and distribute nearly 200 variations of the ballot to different precincts.

All that, she said, would "guarantee" disaster.

"If they want problems, this is the way to have problems. They keep predicting there's going to be chaos and doom and gloom and debacle — this will guarantee it," LePore said.

LePore's outrage grew as she went on for several minutes, claiming that the Democrats' interest in the machines is less about voters' rights than it is about politics — particularly those involving her race for reelection Aug. 31.

"It's me," she said when asked why the Democrats were pursuing the changes. "I followed the laws and did what I'm supposed to do, and they can't stand that. They are doing such a disservice to the voters of this state by predicting all these problems. What's going to end up happening is people aren't going to come out to vote on election day.

"Unfortunately, both parties are doing it, but more so on the Democratic Party side all over the country. They're lining their ducks up in a row, getting ready for the lawsuits that they're going to file so that when mistakes start happening they can point their finger and say, I told you so."

And that, my friends, is exactly what Paul Krugman is doing. Sowing seeds of fear, doubt and illegitimacy in advance of a possible Bush victory in Florida.

Too bad for Krugman the facts don't support such lunacy. A recently completed study of the 2002 Florida elections showed that while touch-screen machines produce a higher rate of undervotes than optical-scanning machines, both are dramatically more accurate than the punch card ballots used in 2000 - with paper trail and all:

The report is required of the division following every general election as a result of the 2001 elections reform law passed after the contentious 2000 presidential election.

It concluded that the use of both systems helped reduce the error rate from the 2000 election.

"Overall, the percentage of uncounted ballots decreased from 2.93 percent in the 2000 election presidential election to 0.86 in the 2002 gubernatorial election," the report stated, adding that the error for the now-infamous punch-card machines in 2000 was 3.93 percent.

One final thing. As to Krugman's slanderous insinuation that Jeb Bush is working to suppress the black vote and may possibly be involved in the impending touch-screen voting heist this November, there's this little tidbit from the aforementioned report:

That higher undervote rate was actually foreshadowed by Gov. Jeb Bush's election reform task force, which in 2001 recommended optical scan machines for all Florida counties for the 2002 elections, leaving open the option of touch-screen machines for future years, as the technology improved...

Notwithstanding these recommendations, election machine manufacturers, hiring top lobbyists, successfully sold the state's largest counties on the touch-screen machines, which cost several times as much as optical-scan units.

So there you have it. The only question left is this: when did the NY Times opinion page decide to make itself an appropriate venue for partisans to peddle unfounded, misleading, and paranoid conspiracy theories? On second thought, don't answer that. - T. Bevan 10:52 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

Monday, August 16 2004
THE "RUSH TO WAR":
It's a truism among liberals today that President Bush "rushed to war" in Iraq. The Kerry campaign and the media sling the phrase almost daily as a dual indictment that President Bush moved so quickly on Iraq he 1) failed to win over vital allies (i.e. France & Germany) and 2) failed to allow enough time to develop a plan to win the peace.

To get some perspective on just how badly this revises history, click here.

We can quibble with our liberal friends over the administration's post-combat assumptions and executions in Iraq, but whatever mistakes have or haven't been made there are not the result of 'moving too quickly.'

Likewise, despite what John Kerry, Howard Dean and Michael Moore want the public to believe, there is no amount of additional time, cajoling, diplomacy, or ass-kissing that would have won the approval of either France or Germany to use meaningful force against Iraq. None.

Let's remember also that the resumption of UN inspections in Iraq - now cited by the Democrats as the useful and definitive work cut short by Bush's "rush to war" - only occurred in the first place because of George W. Bush's leadership.

But even that misses the point. The Bush administration's goal, stated clearly time and time again, wasn't merely to get Iraq to return to another round of cat-and-mouse with UN inspectors. The administration had concluded, rightly, that inspections would never provide America and the world with the level of certainty required in a post-September 11 world that Saddam did not have and was not pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

Instead, the goal was forcing a fundamental change in the behavior of the Iraqi regime that included complete and full disclosure of all weapons programs and compliance with all previous UN resolutions. The Bush administration stated this unequivocally in September 2002:

"This is not a matter of inspections. It is about disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's compliance with all other Security Council resolutions," McClellan said in a written statement. "It is time for the Security Council to act."

Furthermore, though UN Resolution 1441 did call for "an enhanced inspection regime," the language used in the Resolution - at the insistence of the United States - provided Iraq with "a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions of the Council" and declared that Iraq would "face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations."

Shortly thereafter Iraq produced a 12,000 page WMD declaration which everyone including Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei found lacking, yet the Bush administration declared openly that this was not an automatic "trigger for war." Another three months of negotiation would fruitlessly pass before the invasion finally began.

Again, we can argue with our liberal friends as to why intelligence estimates from around the world were faulty (if that is indeed truly what they were) and we can all speculate all we want as to the reasons why Saddam refused to comply when it became utterly apparent to everyone in the world that the threat of action by the United States was not only real but imminent.

What shouldn't be debatable is that the Bush administration's goal was to end the charade with Iraq once and for all. They made it clear they would no longer tolerate half-measures, deceptions and obstructions. Either Saddam opened up completely or he was gone.

Liberals like Josh Marhsall are now arguing that the Bush administration "gamed the process" and the President lied "when he said he needed the muscle of the resolution to force the inspectors back in and have some hope of settling the crisis short of war." Go back and read the speeches. That's a fundamental misinterpretation of the Bush administration policy.

The left is right about one thing: the Bush administration did use 9/11 as a "pretext" for war with Iraq - but only in the sense that the terrible attacks suffered that day provided an epiphany for this administration about the world we live in and the dangerous threats we face around the world.

Even though Iraq wasn't directly involved in 9/11, the attack served as a wake up call about the danger of tolerating a continued (and interrelated) threat like Saddam Hussein who possessed the relationships, ability, ambition and desire to do catastrophic harm to America.

KUMBAYA ALERT: From the "they-just-don't-get-it-and-they're-going-to-get-us-killed" file, here is a stunningly muddle-headed column that ran in Friday's Cincinnati Enquirer titled "Olympics could inspire a truce on terror:"

"With the 2004 Olympics returning home to Greece, maybe this could be a time for all countries to proclaim a truce against terrorism.

Can people from different countries really get along when they put their political and religious differences aside? I think the answer to that question is "Don't judge a person until you've walked a mile in their shoes." First we need to get to know one another, before we can approach the topics that create wars.

So let's hope the expectations of these Olympics Games bring people together for friendship and fellowship, with a chance for different cultures to understand one another on a more personal level, instead of how we are perceived by our governments."

I'm sure Osama has suspended his plans of detonating a suitcase nuke in Washington DC while the games are on. No doubt he's sitting in a cave somewhere eagerly awaiting the Michael Phelps - Ian Thorpe showdown in the 200 freestyle tonight. Or not. - T. Bevan 11:00 am Link | Email | Send to a Friend

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